Contrary to some expectations that the trial would damage Jackson’s reputation with its focus on his drug abuse, jury foreman Gregg Barden said Thursday that what he saw and heard made him a bigger fan of the King of Pop. He bought some of Jackson’s albums growing up, but it wasn’t until serving as a juror in the wrongful death trial that he realized his talent, generosity and personality, Barden said.
Barden — a high school football coach — said he came close to crying in court when Jackson lawyers played a video of Jackson’s children as he sang “Speechless,” a song he wrote to describe his love for his children.
“This Is It” show director Kenny Ortega also won new fans from the jury.
Barden said jurors believed Ortega was “absolutely truthful” in his testimony about Jackson’s deteriorated condition a week before he died, but his “miraculous” recovery at his last two rehearsals.
“He got emotional a couple of times and had to walk off the stand, we really felt bad for him, but he was also a man who put in so much work and so much effort and did everything he could, we felt, to try to help Michael,” Barden said.
Several jurors, including Barden, applauded at the end of Ortega’s dramatic testimony.
“It was just the absolute honesty of what he was doing,” Barden said. “All of the sudden the jurors sitting there for all those months, we watched all these other guys get up there and we were asking ‘Is that the truth or is that a lie?’ Now all of a sudden we didn’t have to do that. We could just relax and listen because everything he said was the truth. That’s why he got applauded.”
Fit and competent, but unethical?
Barden suggested jurors were boxed in by the wording of the second question on their verdict form: “Was Dr. Conrad Murray unfit or incompetent to perform the work for which he was hired?”
Jurors interpreted “the work” to be as a “general practitioner” who was expected to treat Jackson and his children for routine illnesses — not to infuse him with profopol to put him to sleep every night, Barden said.
“Conrad Murray had a license, he graduated from an accredited college and we felt he was competent to do the job of being a general practitioner,” Barden said. “Now, that doesn’t mean that we felt he was ethical, and maybe had the word ethical been in the question, it could have been a different outcome. But because it was for the job he was hired to do, that was what we had to focus on.”
Jackson lawyers argued that one reason Murray was unfit was because he had a conflict of interest. His deep financial debt made him conflicted to the point that he took dangerous risks with his patient because he feared losing the $150,000 monthly salary that AEG Live agreed to pay him to treat Jackson, they argued.
Jurors apparently did not see medical ethics as an essential element for a fit and competent physician.